Most of us are eager for our children to develop a love of books but if you've got a reluctant reader in the family, getting them to pick up those paperbacks is easier said than done.
Studies highlight that an unwillingness to read is more common in boys than girls, and girls also do consistently better in primary school reading assessment at ages five, seven and 11.
Not only is reading an engaging way to pass the time, research shows too that children who read for enjoyment are more likely to achieve well at school, even in unrelated subjects such as maths.
With all this in mind, here are our tips and ideas for reading material for the unenthusiastic and particularly for boys. We can't promise this will transform them into eager bookworms overnight, but it might just give them a nudge in the direction of that bookshelf...
What you can do:
Dr Christina Clark, Head of Research at the National Literacy Trust, suggests that before sending more tomes their way, parents attempt to work out why exactly their child doesn't like reading, as this can help them address any issues.
"Talk to them about their feelings about reading and see if you can determine the underlying causes of their reluctance. They may actually be very confident readers but have been less-than-enthralled by the books they've been given recently.
"Others may find reading more of a struggle and may simply be trying to avoid it.
"In either case, telling a child that reading is something that they 'should' be doing is unlikely to be as effective as helping them rediscover the value, and the fun, of it."
Here are our ideas on how...
- Don't worry too much about what they read initially (within reason!). Any reading, be it magazines, newspapers, the football league tables, will be a step in the right direction and might trigger the feeling that it can be entertaining or useful to read.
Consider non-fiction as well as fiction and tap into their interests.
Christina advises: "Whether cookery or cartooning, this is a good first step to helping them find reading material they will enjoy. For example, a sports fan might like reading tips to improve their own game in books or online, through biographies or articles about successful sports people. Young football fans might also be interested in the stories written by footballers such as Theo Walcott or football-based fiction by Tom Palmer. Avid gamers could read reviews of new games, tips and cheats in computer game magazines or websites."
This will hopefully be a starting point rather than the only genre or subject they will look at.
- Keep reading to and with your children, even once they can read well independently. Who says they're too old for a bedtime story? If they do struggle to read alone and are otherwise ready to do a little more, try reading one page and them reading the next - this can help bridge the gap.
- As their role models, the more children see you reading, the more they might decide to do the same. Consider holding a weekly 'reading club' as a family – an hour where you turn gadgets off and grab a paperback each (it needn't be the same book). If the idea is met with groans, you could try sweetening the blow with some chocolates or popcorn the first few times.
- Leave appealing books and magazines lying around the house and car (as long as children aren't prone to car sickness). They might well end up tempted to pick them up next time you're stuck in a traffic jam. Similarly instead of handing them a gadget when waiting in a long queue or the doctor's surgery or the like, maybe try giving them a book or magazine.
- Make sure what they're reading is within their capabilities. Struggling to decipher long words or not understanding a complex story can make an otherwise gripping book a page turn-off rather than a page turner. If this might be an issue, provide some easy but confidence boosting reads or read together so you can explain things.
- Check out the Summer Reading Challenge at your local library. This successful free to participate in scheme is designed to reward and encourage children's reading over the holidays.
- Hook them into a series of books if possible and then search online or ask a bookseller for ideas for something similar. If your child loved Horrid Henry, then a quick bit of research might show that Captain Underpants could well appeal too.
- Don't turn your backs on picture books too soon – these can still be fun for older children.
- Take them to the local library for a cost-free choice of book. There will be no pressure to purchase and they can experiment without risking wasting money.
Christina thoroughly recommends a visit to the library: "Children's librarians can suggest popular authors and series. If a child has gone off reading because they haven't liked one or two books recently, they may just need to try something new, and libraries are a great, risk-free way to encourage children to experiment with their reading - if they don't like what they choose they can just take it back"
- Grab a gadget. Not everyone's a fan of e-readers but according to Christina, what children read is more important than how they read it and we know that many a modern child is swayed by more screen time... plus an e-reader's in-built dictionary and the ability to change font sizes to suit might increase a book's appeal.
On the downside a dedicated e-reader will lose the colour from covers and any illustrations that aren't in black and white, whilst using an e-reader app on a tablet or laptop will mean more screen glare, which is associated with problems sleeping.
- Look at film-book tie-ins – as an adult, sometimes watching the film before reading the book can ruin things but for kids, it might make a book that they would otherwise find too challenging less intimidating.
So if they've watched the film or theatre production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, get them the book, and then hope it becomes a way into other Roald Dahl stories.
Click on the slideshow below to discover 10 great reads for the reluctant reader.
(Note that age guidance is just that – children's reading ability and interest levels can vary significantly).
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